Patient engagement and presence in a virtual world world diabetes self-management education intervention for minority women

Patient Educ Couns. 2022 Apr;105(4):797-804. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2021.06.033. Epub 2021 Jun 29.


Objective: We aim to explore how users' experience of presence in a virtual world (VW) learning environment enhanced patient engagement in DSME/S programs conducted in an online VW platform with minority women with type 2 diabetes.

Methods: We conducted an embedded, mixed methods study, using a convergent study design to analyze qualitative field notes and interview data and quantitative survey data gathered from the Women in Control 2.0 (WIC2) clinical trial participants. The WIC2 clinical trial compared a diabetes group visit program delivered using an online VW platform versus an in-person approach.

Result: We enrolled 158 VW participants, of which 144 completed baseline data, 124 completed the post-intervention follow up survey, and 30 participated in key informant and focus group interviews. Overall, participants reported a sense of social (63.7%, mean 3.7/5.0), physical (63.1%, mean 3.6/5.0), and self (49.0%, mean 3.3/5.0) presence while engaged in VW group DSME/S. Three themes emerged from mixed methods analysis including, 1) Participants' identification with their avatars enhances a sense of self presence in a VW, 2) physical presence enables visualization and imaginative play modalities of social learning, and 3) social presence cultivates meaningful social support and psychological safety.

Conclusion: Our research empirically supports the premise that participants' experience of three domains of presence (self, physical and social) in a VW environment enhances participant engagement in DSME/S programs.

Practice implications: Further research is warranted to study optimal approaches to implementation and dissemination of this novel approach to patient education and engagement.

Keywords: Diabetes self-management education and support; Digital health; Health disparities; Minority women; Virtual world.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / therapy
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Patient Participation
  • Self-Management*